I'm a runner. Many days that means I'm looking to the future: the next race, the finish line of that race, or my house that sits at the end of the current training session for that race. The temptation to look ahead never leaves a runner's side.
That's usually not a good thing.
First, let me say I see a difference between looking ahead and having a goal. Having a goal means I have an outcome in mind tied to my current effort. Looking ahead means in the midst of my current effort my mind has drifted to the goal and I'm no longer as open to the possibilities of what I'm currently engaged in.
I've experience this in my work life. For years I stayed focused on the next promotion. So much of my daily effort was centered on doing things that might expedite my way to the next position instead of soaking up everything I could and being grateful for the one I was in. Today, I thankfully spend far more time exploring the possibilities of my current jobs instead of imagining how much better life would be in the next one.
I've experienced this in my spiritual life. To many, Christianity is a means to the end. Follow Jesus and you'll inherit everlasting life. True. There is an ultimate life finish line. But I went through a period in my faith journey when I spent a lot of time rationalizing less than Christ-like behavior by telling myself I had plenty of time to make up for it before I arrived at the finish line. That thinking reduced Jesus to a ticket I could present at the pearly gates instead of a relationship I could lean on here and now. One that has delivered me inexplicable peace - daily.
And it's true. Many days I experience it in my running journey. I spend upwards of 4 months training for one race. But I find myself spending a majority of those months focused on the final time on the clock as I run across the finish line. I trade away hours of reflection and gratitude and the possibilities that come with each and every stride I take preparing for a race for the dreams of what might happen in the single moment I cross that race's finish line.
The finish line of our careers, faith, and running can be great motivation. More often than not, though, I'm afraid where we long to be eats away at the joy of where we are. When we focus on the sensations that come with getting a promotion, or walking through the gates of heaven, or running across the finish line in record time, we undermine the magical moments that happen in our day to day efforts. We somehow make insignificant things that were never meant to be insignificant at all.
So, have goals. Picture the finish line. But know the moment you're in might be a much bigger treasure.
Don't miss it.
Life is like running.